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UCLA football: Finger pointing goes beyond Bruin quarterbacks

October 28, 2009 | 10:00 am
Rick UCLA Coach Rick Neuheisel has preached “no finger pointing” in post-game and post-practice stump speeches. But even he had to catch himself after the 27-13 loss to Arizona on Saturday.

Talking about the Bruins’ offense, Neuheisel said, “We are not throwing the ball …” then paused and rephrased “… throwing and catching the ball well enough to compete in the Pac-10.”

Even Neuheisel can’t resist the rush to judgment on quarterbacks.

UCLA quarterbacks Kevin Prince and Kevin Craft had poor games, which Richard Brehaut getting enough time in the game to show whether he should be in that grouping. That, though, was only part of the story.

Guard Nick Ekbatani was called for two false starts and one holding penalty. Wide receiver Nelson Rosario mishandled too many of the throws that were on target. The offensive line gave up four sacks, with Prince fumbling on one. Tailback Christian Ramirez also fumbled.

It takes a village, as they say.

Yet, in the end, Prince and Craft, who were a combined 13-of-32 for 135 yards, were left to take a large portion of the blame.

Even Neuheisel, talking about third-down plays on Monday, said, “We need to hit some passes.”

Prince completed three of four passes on third down. His evening went like this:

--Third-and-seven, Ekbatani had a false start.
--Third-and-12, Prince scrambled for two yards.
--Third-and-seven, Prince was sacked.
--Third-and-four, Prince has poor throw on an incomplete pass.
--Third-and-two, Prince completed two-yard pass to Ryan Moya.
--Third-and-one, Ekbatani had a false start.
--Third-and-seven, Prince sacked.
--Third-and-19, Prince completed a nine-yard pass to Logan Paulsen.
--Third-and-20, Prince scrambled for eight yards.
--Third-and-12, Prince completed a two-yard pass to Johnathan Franklin.

While Prince -- and Craft -- failed to make plays on third down, they had considerable help, something even Neuheisel was admitting Tuesday.

“Third down is a team responsibility,” Neuheisel said. “We can’t just put it all on the quarterback. Certainly there are times when the throw could have been made. Certainly there are times when we think the catch could been made. Certainly, there were times when protection could have been better.”

Hester ready

Cornerback Aaron Hester is being worked into the game plan for this week. While he spent Tuesday’s practice working mostly with the second-team defensive unit, he was also deeply involved in the team’s pass defense packages as a nickel and dime back.

Hester wrapped up practice in that nickel role during two-minute drills. Sheldon Price continues to work with the first team. Hester was the starter before suffering a broken leg in the season opener.

“I got to get back with my boys,” Hester said. “That’s what I started doing.”

Asked about his role in pass packages, he said, “Shh, don’t let Oregon State know,” then added, “I’ll run some nickel for the game, and compete for the starting spot.”

Hester was cleared to resume full practice more than a week ago, but cornerbacks coach Carnell Lake said he wanted to bring the redshirt freshman along slowly.

“He may have been ready go last week, but I wasn’t ready for him to go,” Lake said. “I wanted him to get a week under his belt, get him moving again and get him used to contact. This week, I’m throwing him to the fire.

“Where we placed him in the lineup, he has to make adjustments and understand the coverages. I wanted to look at that [Tuesday.]”

-- Chris Foster

Photo: Rick Neuheisel tries to get the attention of the referees during the Bruins' victory over Tennessee on Sept. 12. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times